Albanian Fathers & American Daughters (2/3)

Host Family #2 The Kolgeci Family

My second host family was an extremely poor family living in the mountains on the west side of Kosovo. There were a total of 8 people living in the house ranging from 3 to 60 years old, 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It was one of the last houses in the village and a long walk to school, the main road and the rest of my community.

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I won’t compare my 2nd host family with my 1st; it was a completely different type of experience and completely different type of family. For a million reasons that I won’t go into, it was a difficult family to live with and a difficult place to live. I didn’t fit in with their “village girl” expectations and they didn’t really like that I went running alone, left the village frequently or turned down midnight visits to the neighbors on work nights. Of the 8 people in the house, I felt the only comrade I had that entire first year was my host father.

He wasn’t the protective, commanding presence of my previous host father but he talked pleasantly with me and brought me to school with him when I could catch him in the morning. He patiently helped me go from basic to conversational Albanian. He called me Hare which means joy after I explained I have 3 names (middle names are a completely foreign concept in Albanian culture).

During my 1st year of service, the school was short on a teacher for English and so my host father (who speaks absolutely no English) taught 4th grade with me every week. He excitedly sat down with the students and jumped in learning his colors and alphabet right along with the rest of the children. I called him bab like I did all of my Albanian fathers and he thought of me as his daughter.

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Though in the end, I decided it was best to move to another family, I have a lot of respect for the courage it took to be the 1st family in the region to open their arms and take in a non-Albanian in a village that had been brutalized during the ethnic cleansings and suffered much hatred a decade ago by “outsiders.” He set the precedent of openness for the rest of my community and introduced me to the people who would become my coworkers, friends and future family. He gave up his bedroom for an entire year so I could have a private place to sleep. I learned a lot during my year living under his roof and I am grateful for everything he provided for me during that 1st long 12 months.

Albanian Fathers & American Daughters (1/3)

Life of A Peace Corps Volunteer (Part 1)